This was first published on KSL.com
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham share some ways to take better care of yourself so you feel less drained and empty in your parenting.
I feel like a terrible mother. I find myself resenting my children for just how demanding my job is. I don’t think they are more demanding than other children, but I just don’t have it in me some days. I feel emotionally drained and can’t wait for them to all be in bed, so I can have some me time. How do I successfully balance my needs and the needs of my family without resentment or guilt? I feel guilty taking care of me but resentful if I don’t. I don’t want to be this grouchy and drained all the time. What can I do?
Thank you for having the courage to speak out about these feelings that we believe most mothers feel, at least some of the time. Motherhood and balancing the needs of a home and family is a tall order and most of us have high, slightly unrealistic expectations that leave us feeling like we are never good enough.
The truth is we all feel emotionally drained from motherhood on occasion. Having the energy to give selflessly to other people day and night, is difficult and unless we learn to maintain a healthy balance and make sure our own bucket is full, we can feel drained or resentful a lot.
There are four ways you can create a healthier balance between caring for other and caring for yourself and keep your bucket full:
1. Institute some healthy boundaries
Do you allow people to take more from you than you have to give?
Sadly, almost every woman we know, answers YES to this question. Obviously, there are things you must do every day to meet the needs of your family and ensure they are safe, nourished and cared for, whether you want to or not. However, most women give more than necessary and take on extra tasks, which leave them feeling resentful and overburdened.
This over giving can lead to feelings of anger and mistreatment. Over giving may be so behaviorally ingrained for you though, you may even find even understanding the principle of balance difficult. Many people, who are people pleasers, learned as a child that pleasing others and serving was always the "right" thing to do and sacrificing yourself was righteous. But this implies that taking care of yourself at all makes you selfish. Many women and men, who grew up with these beliefs, need help establishing healthy boundaries with their spouses, friends and neighbors.
Boundaries are rules that protect you from your guilt, weakness and people pleasing, which make you to over give. They are not about controlling other people. They are about controlling you.
The first boundary you probably need is a permission rule about saying no. We sometimes have to tell our clients, “We officially give you permission to say no to things that would overwhelm or drain you, and do so without feeling guilty at all. Saying no does not make you a bad person, it makes you a healthy one.”
If you want to have healthy relationships, you must give only those gifts you can give freely, without guilt, strings, or sense of obligation in play. When you give authentically, you are love-motivated, meaning you have it to give and actually want to give it. Your giving is not driven by "shoulds" or the need to get approval or validation from others (which would make the service about you not them). If you give to others because you are afraid of judgment or letting someone down, or if you feel guilty if you don’t do it, your giving is based on fear, not love.
This week, give yourself permission to create some new healthier boundaries. Could you love yourself enough to acknowledge your needs and make sure they are met, while also tending to the family? This can be hard if you place your value in what other’s think of you or if you are trying to look like a "super mom" caring for everyone and sacrificing yourself. But there is no extra prize for the super mom or the martyr.
One of the healthiest things you can do as a mom is model healthy, balanced self-care, showing your kids it is right and healthy to take care of yourself because you are as important as everyone else. You will also find people tend to appreciate what you do for them more if you say no on occasion. When you always sacrifice yourself for others, they come to expect it, and their appreciation goes down. If you are completely taken for granted, it's a sure sign you are over giving.
2. Remember receiving is just as important as giving
This may be another bitter pill to swallow if you are a people pleaser who feels safer being the giver. But being good at receiving is just as important as being good at giving. Unless we allow others to reciprocate in our relationships, we don’t experience a truly healthy, relationship dynamic. Think of how good it feels to give a gift to someone you love. Now, think about how you would feel if they rejected your gift. You see, receiving gives the other person the same fulfillment you get when you give to them.
It’s essential this balance of giving and receiving is established in all the relationships in your life. Without this balance, you easily slip into over giving and other people either take advantage of this or walk away because they are not receiving the feelings they want.
Many relationships breakdown because, over time, the imbalance of giving and receiving takes a toll. Allowing your children to help around the house, give you a foot rub, be patient while you take a bath, or take time from their day to sit and listen to you, are easy ways that you can correct the imbalance.
Not asking for and accepting help from children may be why you have some resentment. Ask your children to pitch in around the house, allow them to cook you a meal, even if it’s cheese on toast or cereal. It’s fun for them and it’s essential for you, so drop the high expectations of doing it all and make life a team effort.
3. Ask for your needs to be me
Your needs are just as important as the other members of your family. We know this may be hard to get your head around, but your needs being met is essential to the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being of the entire family.
Asking for what you need, in a loving way, is also much better than holding resentment and anger that your needs are never met. Learning how to facilitate conversations that allow you to ask for help is easier than you think. Start by asking them questions about how they feel about life in your home. Really listen and be open to some things you could do better or different. (This makes children feel very loved.) Then, ask if they would be willing to help you a little more by doing this or that for you.
We think you will be surprised at how much your family wants to love you through acts of kindness, service and support. Many of our clients feel angry that they don’t get more help, but they aren’t asking the family to help either. Start by asking for what you need without feeling guilty.
4. Drop the guilt
Mothers are the queens of guilt. We feel guilty about not giving enough time or energy, about not being enough, about not being a good enough role model, provider, housekeeper, confidante — we feel guilty when we are working and guilty when we aren’t — we feel guilty about everything.
Let’s drop this now. You always do the best you can with what you know in each moment, and you often give when you don’t even have it in you.
Your value does not change if you are tired, grouchy or drained. Your value is the same as every other person no matter how much you struggle. Your love is one of a kind and it is exactly what your children need.
You are not a perfect parent (because that’s not possible), but you are the perfect parent for your children (or you wouldn’t have been given the job). Your guilt doesn't serve anyone or anything. Get over it. Let the past go and do your best to stay present and love yourself and them today.
Keep working on your ability to receive and create some healthy boundaries for yourself this week. Figure out what you really need to keep your bucket full and make a plan to do those things.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs we have in our lifetime. By showing greater compassion and understanding toward yourself, especially in times of fatigue and emotional exhaustion, you will honor your value and show up as a love-motivated parent.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cummingham are the founders of claritypointcoaching.com and upskillrelationships.com. They have programs for burned out moms starting soon.
This was first published on KSL.com
I work with a woman, who is very opinionated with severe black and white thinking. I find myself getting upset by the way that she voices her opinions all the time and won’t even consider anothers point of view. We all eat lunch together and honestly, it’s getting hard to tolerate. What do you do with people who are that opinionated and not open to life having any shades of grey?
We are going to answer three questions inside your question.
First, why do some people see the world in this black-and-white way and feel they have to constantly share or even push their opinions on the rest of us?
Second, how do you know if you are one of these opinionated people?
Third, what can you do so people, who are like this, don’t drive you batty?
It makes life a great deal easier if you understand what is really driving human behavior. Understanding what motivates people helps us to not take other people’s behavior as personally either.
We believe human behavior is driven (consciously or subconsciously) by what we fear and what we value. So, we are going to explain the fears and values behind very opinionated, black-and-white thinking.
These people often have fear failure (that they might not be good enough) and they have fear loss (that life won’t be the way they want it to be). We know this because these two fears are behind almost all bad behavior.
These people feel safer if they have a clearly defined moral code, a black-and-white clear and solid code of behavior (the way people should behave) and other rules of correct living. If they have these rules clearly defined, they know exactly what they must do to be good enough. These guidelines make them feel safe. They also get a sense of safety from finding fault in the rule breaking and incorrect thinking in the people around them. If they can find people who are worse or wrong, it makes their ego feel a little better or right, which quiets their fear of failure a bit.
People who are quick to judge others as wrong are usually getting a strong sense of safety and self-worth from believing they are right. The more fear of failure they have about themselves, the more they might focus on black and white rules that prove they are right.
They may also be a tad controlling too because having things done “right” also makes them feel safer in the world. They are often defensive, territorial and protective of themselves, which can come across as selfish, arrogant and inflexible. They are often more focused on things being right and fair than they are on caring how other people feel.
These people also highly value ideas. They like learning and teaching. They believe correct ideas and doing things right are critical to success and happiness, and they tend to assume that everyone has or should have the same ideas, beliefs and values they have.
They also fear what would happen if their ideas (and rules) are not upheld. For example, people who are passionate about the environment and global warming value environmental issues, as well as fear the outcome if the planet is not looked after. They can at times be a tad judgmental or critical when they feel others don’t value ideas, beliefs and opinions or have the wrong ones.
Now, the question is, are you this kind of person? Do you have a strong sense of right and wrong and often find yourself in judgment of others? Do you ever leave a situation and realize you may have talked too much or dominated the conversation? Do you get irritated when people disagree with you and do you see them as less than you, because of their choices?
If these are resonating as truth for you, don’t worry – we aren’t saying you are bad, wrong or less than others for being wired this way. The truth is the world needs people who care deeply about right and wrong, but we must all watch for unbalanced behavior that comes when we function from fear.
If you aren’t like this but have people in your life who are, here are some tips for dealing with these people:
1. Show compassion toward the fear that is driving their opinionated behavior and black-and-white thinking.
When we consciously choose to stay calm and not react to the behavior of others, we are able to look at what is motivating it. Think about this woman at work, what do you know about her story and what she has been through in her life? Do you think there is some fear of failure in her? Can you sense that her stand on issues is about feeling right somewhere? When you look underneath the behavior and try to identify where it comes from, we step into greater acceptance, tolerance and compassion. See if you can show greater kindness and compassion to her and recognize her insecurities, after all, you have those too, they just manifest themselves differently for each of us.
2. Don’t react to the bad behavior, instead listen intently and then ask for permission to share your ideas
In the moment, when people are on a soap box and speaking down to us or sharing their strong opinions that we disagree with, we can become triggered and feel frustrated or angry. Often our ego wants to retaliate by interrupting or arguing, which can escalate the situation to conflict and confrontation.
Now, you understand their opinionated behavior is about their fear and their need for validation and safety. So, in reality, what they need is validation (which we know is the last thing you want to give them). If you can have a mutually validating conversation and make them feel safe, you might be able to get them in a place where they can listen to you too. You might even teach them something. The formula to having these conversations is on our website.
But, you basically must ask them more questions about their opinions and listen and validate their right to think the way they do. If you are willing to go here, you then earn the right to have a turn to share your opinion with them.
After you have given them some time to share and you make sure they feel heard, you can ask permission to share your thoughts. “Would you be open to letting me share another opinion?” This permission question opens the door for you to now be heard and share your opinion. If the person interrupts or tries to speak over you again, you have earned the right to say, “Excuse me, please don’t interrupt, I listened to your ideas on this, and I would appreciate you respecting my turn to speak and hearing my thoughts.”
This can be done respectfully and without confrontation. But remember, it’s not about changing other people’s minds, it’s about coming to a place where both differing opinions are respected and validating everyone involved.
3. Don’t take it so personally.
Other people’s need to be right or feel superior is their fear of failure at work. It is about their fears about themselves — it isn’t really about you. Ask yourself, “Which part of you needs validation and recognition for your opinions and feels mistreated when you don’t get that?” Is your fear of failure being triggered?”
All of us have this fear, on some level, but healthy self-esteem comes from knowing you don’t need validation or recognition from others to have the same intrinsic worth as every other person on the planet. Remind yourself that you are a unique, one of a kind human soul and your value doesn’t depend on your opinions, whether you are validated or liked by others, or whether other people think you are wrong.
As you remind yourself of this truth you will find yourself needing less attention and acknowledgment from others, and you will be able to better tolerate listening to the black and white views of others without feeling bothered.
If you are this kind of person and can recognize a need to be heard and validated for what you think, this is a great fear challenge to work on. Practice asking more questions and listening more than you talk next time you are with people. You will find validating others opinions feels even better than sharing yours.
Knowing you are lifting others up always feels better than being right. Practice setting aside your need to be right about how things should be. Try allowing people to have the same intrinsic value as you, even though their beliefs and values are different.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
This was first published on KSL.com
I need help with feelings of insecurity. I’ve been dating this woman for a little over six months and we have a great time together. We both have been divorced so our lives are busy with our children, our careers, and trying to juggle everything, and make time for each other. When we are together I feel like our relationship has a future, but when we are apart, I feel like I’m deluding myself as she tends to fall off the grid. I know she is busy, but what is a realistic expectation for communication, phone calls, and texts so that we stay connected and part of each other’s lives? I’ve never thought of myself as needy, but I am finding myself needing more communication than I am getting. What can I do here?
There are a few questions here we want to address, but let’s start with “What is the right amount of communication in a dating relationship in order to feel connected and move the relationship forward?” The answer can be summed up in two words… it depends.
It depends on the kind of person you are and the kind of person she is.
Some people need more attention, validation and communication to feel safe and secure than others. Some actually need time and space without communication to feel safe and secure.
As you mentioned, you appear to be one of those people that are a little insecure and needy for communication and connection to feel safe. The question is does this woman know this, but she isn’t that into you… or is she taking time off the grid, because she needs that space to feel good herself and that need has nothing to do with you?
You may want to ask her some questions about whether she needs time alone and off the grid to refill her bucket or if she’s one of those people (like you) who likes to be in touch and connected most of the time.
The trick is getting the balance right for your relationship and that you learn how to ask for what you need to create healthy expectations for you both so that you don’t let each other down, disappoint, smother and overwhelm the other.
Sometimes we also have expectations (or have become used to the communication styles) of our previous partners, which could set the expectations in your current relationship, and this can be a problem because these people are different.
Here are four questions to answer to help you become clear on your needs and how healthy they are, and how to set healthy expectations in your relationship. Then, we will give you some language and communication tips on how to ask for your needs to be met.
1. Why do I need constant communication — am I looking for validation?
This question is an important one to sit with. When your phone beeps with texts as the day goes along does it make you feel validated, special and important? The answer I imagine is yes, as it’s this way for all of us. Therefore, if the phone doesn’t ring or buzz with texts, do you find yourself experiencing self-doubt or not feeling as valuable?
We say that not getting messages is then triggering your fear of failure – the fear that you may not be good enough. Therefore, feelings of insecurity and doubt about your relationships may creep in whenever the communication slows down. It’s like your self-worth and self-esteem get a little boost every time you are communicating, and your ego and self-confidence get used to this boost, and this means when it’s not there, the fear creeps in, you start comparing yourself to others and you feel less of value and importance. When your self-worth is relying on these messages, it will always go up and down, and you will always feel at risk.
If you want a healthy relationship, you must start with a healthy self-belief and confidence that is consistent so you don’t ride a rollercoaster of emotion and make your self-esteem your partners responsibility.
Ideally, you want to be in a place where you feel valuable, important and worthy all by yourself and when you receive it from others it makes your self-love tank overflow not fill up. To achieve this, you may need to change the factors that determine your worth. We recommend a perspective that says your intrinsic value does not change when you receive attention from others and it does not change when you don’t either because you see your intrinsic worth (and the worth of all human beings) as unchangeable and the same all the time, no matter what.
You are unique, a one of a kind, and there never will ever be another you (just like everyone else on the planet) this means you have infinite and absolute worth, that no person or experience can diminish or change. At least you can see it this way if you want to because it’s all perspective.
We recommend you watch yourself and the boost you receive from others when you receive attention through communication and just remind yourself that your value and self-esteem does not depend on the contact or attention you receive from your significant other. The more you work on this, you will enjoy validation and attention, but you won’t need it to be OK and happy.
2. Do I need communication to feel that I belong?
Many of us have a deep desire to belong to someone or something as a way of feeling connected and worthwhile. Being invited to things, included, and asked for your ideas and input makes us feel valued and that we belong. This feeling of belonging can make you feel safe and secure in the world and that you don’t have to face your challenges and trials on your own. Without connection through constant communication, many people feel isolated, disconnected and that they just don’t belong
This becomes a problem when you need this feeling of belonging as a crutch, or a safety net of sorts. Once again, this is dangerous ground where we place our safety and confidence in the hands of other people and do not take responsibility for it ourselves.
Watch for this need to belong and the safety and confidence it gives you. Explore the idea of feeling strong, courageous and secure without constant communication. This will give you an idea of whether you really have displaced yourself and are looking to others to make you feel OK.
3. Do I feel comfortable being alone?
We all have different levels of comfort and security in our own company. Many of us fill up and feel most balanced with other people around. Other people feel their best and more balanced when they get a chance to be alone to fill up their cup. They might like to read, exercise or even just hang around the house all alone, and this restores them so they have the energy to pour into the people they love later on.
These two ways of restoring and refueling can often cause miscommunication and misaligned communication expectations in relationships. For example, if you are a person who feels best with other people close and your significant other likes to be alone, you might see this as rejection or take it personally. In fact, this is not about you at all, it’s just about her ability to restore balance for herself, so it’s going to cause problems if you are offended. Discussing this with your partner helps you both set realistic expectations and make sure your needs and hers get met.
4. Do I make myself and my life happy, do I have enough interests, passions or hobbies?
Is your life (without your love interest) rich, full of interests and happiness or have you placed a lot of expectations and pressure on this relationship to fulfill all your needs?
Often, we are so excited about our relationship and we enjoy each other’s company so much that we can unknowingly place all our joy in this one place. We can neglect our self-care, our balance, our friends, our family, our hobbies and maybe even our career as we just want to spend our time with our new love. This can be unhealthy and dangerous ground as long-lasting and healthy relationships have balance on both sides.
Maintaining your relationships with your friends and family, continuing to make time for your hobbies, and ensuring you still look after yourself with exercise, good food and sleep, is essential to you being your best. When you are balanced your relationship will thrive.
Some of these might or might not have been accurate for you, but keep in mind nothing can make love die quicker than neediness and co-dependence, and nothing is more attractive than confidence.
You may also want to put yourself in the shoes of your love and even ask yourself how she would answer these four questions. Once you feel like you have been objective you may want to have an open a discussion with her about your needs and expectations in the relationship. Ask her to tell you what she expects first, then ask if you can share your - but don’t come across needy or weak and make sure she does not feel attacked or criticized.
Remember to have fun, laugh and to keep the communication you have meaningful, engaging and enjoyable. When you become too serious or high maintenance you will push people away.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and Nicole Cunningham is a master coach and sought after speaker. You can get more free relationship resources at www.upskillrelationships.com
My brother and sister-in-law moved close to our house this summer. One of their sons (my son’s cousin) is a real tyrant though, who insists on having control and manipulates my son. This bossy kid is unable to share and demands his way with tantrums constantly. I don’t know how to address this behavior with my son. I do not feel it is healthy for anyone to boss others around like this. I would never allow my child to do that. What would be the best way to bring this up with my son and teach him to stand up for himself, or talk about it with my sister-in-law and ask her to work with her child on this? These situations can be so awkward and I don’t know where to start because I don’t want to offend, but I hate how my child is being treated.
You are really asking me two questions. The first is how do I teach my child to enforce boundaries and not get pushed around by others? The second is should I bring up bad behavior to the child’s parent and how does one handle a conversation like that without offending?
We get a little excited by these people problems though, because there are great learning opportunities here for everyone involved. For you, it is a great exercise in speaking your truth and being your child’s advocate, and for your child, there is important opportunity to learn how to enforce boundaries and decide how they will allow other people to treat them. Learning this now could save your child years and years of trouble later in life. The bossy cousin also has a great lesson coming, about how you must treat people if you want them to stay in your life.
We would recommend you start with a conversation with your child, though, and see if he can change the situation by enforcing boundaries on his own. We believe teaching children to enforce boundaries is one of the most important things you can teach them because it will set them up to have healthy relationships for the rest of their lives.
Adults also need to work on finding a healthy balance between showing up for others and taking care of ourselves. Most of us find showing up for others is easier than taking care of ourselves. We believe this happens because you have been subconsciously programmed to see taking care of yourself as selfish and bad — but it’s not selfish. It’s healthy and wise.
If you don’t take care of yourself, ask for what you need and stand up for yourself, you will soon be empty and have nothing else to give to anyone. Remember, you are the one in charge of making sure your needs are met and your bucket stays full. This could mean staying away from people who drain you, asking for the time alone, or for whatever space you need to refill and nurture yourself. You must show your children how to do this by example. If you struggle with this, we highly recommend you get some coaching or counseling to work on worthiness and receiving.
Or you might have the opposite problem and be really good at taking care of yourself, but struggle to want to show up for others. Either way, you get to work on balance.
Here are some tips on teaching children to enforce boundaries:
1. Ask questions
Find a time to ask your kids some questions about how they feel about playing with the cousin who insists on controlling them and always having his way. Ask them how it makes them feel and what they think is fair in those situations.
Great Parenting Tip: You should always ask questions and listen to your children before you give any advice on anything. Find out what they already know and ask questions to see if they can figure out the right answer on their own.
2. Ask permission to share
If they can’t see the answer, then ask if they would be open to some ideas on how they might handle the situation.
Great Parenting Tip: Always ask permission to share your ideas or advice and make sure the child is open to it before you say a word. This shows you respect them and their views. (Do this with adults, friends and family too).
3. Teach principles
Once you have permission, explain to them the concept of compromise and explain the need for everyone to have a say and to have a turn. Spend time teaching your children the importance of seeing everyone as the same (in importance and value) and that everyone should have the opportunity to choose how and what to play.
It’s important as you discuss the behavior of the cousin, you do not put him down in any way. You have a great opportunity to teach compassion here and this child has the same value as your children, it’s only his behavior that you are commenting on, not his intrinsic worth as a person.
4. Give them language
Equip your child with the language to enforce boundaries through role-playing the scenarios with him. This will help him feel confident to discuss the problem next time it occurs. Teach him how to stand firm and share his feelings lovingly using language like, “I think it would be fair for all of us to have a turn at deciding the game today. When you choose all the time it makes me not want to play with you.” or “Absolutely, let’s play your game, and then let me have a turn at deciding the next game so we all get to do what we want to do.”
If language such as this is unsuccessful and the cousin’s behavior doesn’t change, then it’s very helpful to equip your children with the language to excuse themselves from the play or ask for help from an adult, without appearing like a tattle tale. Giving him phrases such as “OK, I don’t feel this is fair that you keep choosing the game and it’s not very fun for me to go along with your ideas all the time, so I’m going to go home and play by myself for a while and choose something I want to do.”
You can decide from there whether to speak to the child’s mother yourself or just keep your son at home with you. The other mother may ask, at some point, what’s going on and why your child won’t come play anymore. Be prepared with the same tips above to have a loving conversation with the mother. Ask questions and listen first to see if she has seen any problems or concerns when the boys played together. Find out if she was aware, at all, of what was happening. Then, ask permission to speak your truth. There is a great communication worksheet on our website which can guide you through having mutually validating conversations.
Remember to refrain from judgment and don’t speak down to the other parent as if you know more or better. Speak to them as an equal and you will receive the same respect you are giving them back and you can hopefully come to a mutual solution.
Begin the conversation with a permission questions like, “Hey, would you be open to talking with me about how the children are playing? I’m a little concerned with something I see is happening.”
If you receive a "no" then you know it’s either not a good time or that the parents are not open to feedback or a mutual solution. This will then help you to make the decisions that are healthiest for your children. Receiving feedback without being prepared is often hard to take, so asking permission ensure you create the best environment possible for the conversation.
When you speak your truth try to use more "I" statements than "you" statements. “I have noticed that when our children play your son has a need to consistently have his way and is not open to compromise. I find that my child is not being heard or having a turn, which I don’t feel is healthy for him. I wonder if you would be open to us as parents doing our best to get involved, to ensure all the children are getting a chance to share their ideas and choose a game, as this is really the healthiest way for them to learn to play and get along. Would you be open to helping me with this?”
Learning to have these boundary conversations is challenging, but this healthy dialogue really does make for lasting relationships. You may need to have a few conversations with your child about speaking his truth in a loving way before he has the confidence to speak up for himself, however, these are all wonderful and healthy discussions that will serve your child well in their future.
You can do this.
I have recently started to date a new woman, the first woman I have been serious about since my divorce, but I’m unsure if I really want this relationship. Or maybe I’m just afraid of being hurt again or feel unsure about myself and fear rejection. But I’m holding back and I feel like fear is clouding my judgment. I don’t want to ruin this relationship and run because of my fears and push her away — help.
We think what you are really asking is, "How do you know if you are holding back from something or someone for a fear reason (that you should work to overcome) versus holding back because your gut is saying it isn’t right?"
We are all faced with options and choices every day, and often fear making the wrong choice keeps us stuck. We believe if you work on getting rid of your subconscious fears first, you then gain clarity and find it easier to feel which path is right for you. So, we are going to give you some steps for doing that.
But first, understand we all participate in the world differently, according to our unique past experiences. Our past experiences, the family we came from, and the things we were taught all contribute in creating subconscious core fears and core values, which now influence our ability and enthusiasm toward taking risks.
Ask yourself, how do you show up in the world? What is your comfort level with risk within your relationships? Do you put your neck out to say, 'I love you' first or do you wait for your partner to be the first to confess their feelings? Similarly, are you a person who is comfortable with commitment, travel, responsibility and financial stretches? Or do you stay close to home and save money over spending it? Maybe your ability to commit to a relationship is not just about fear of getting hurt, but also your comfort with risk and vulnerability in general.
Many of us play small and safe in the world, we doubt our abilities, our looks, our worth, our intelligence, and our worthiness to do or have big things. We might play safe in our relationships, too. We might feel unworthy to ask out a really amazing woman or think a great guy would never be interested in us.
The fear of failure (fear of not being good enough) can cause you to compare yourself to others, feel insecure, doubt yourself and feel at risk in every relationship. It can also make you show up needy of reassurance, attention and validation, which often cause relationship problems.
People who have less fear of failure play bigger in the world. They commit faster, more forward first, take bigger leaps of faith, and feel more confident in relationships. They have a more secure sense of who they are, what they have to offer, and what they want from a relationship. They also start relationships because they want them, not because they need them — and there is a big difference.
The good news is, with awareness and conscious effort, you can shift yourself from fear of failing and losing out to trusting yourself, your value and your journey. We’ve been helping people do this for 15 years, so we know it’s possible.
If you have real regrets, pain or guilt from your past relationships, it can leave you feeling powerless and unable or afraid to move forward. Unfortunately, you can’t go back and fix the past, or erase those experiences and their effects, but there are three things you can do that will start to make you feel more confident with yourself and your choices. From this place you can accurately feel which direction your inner truth is nudging you. Here are the three tips for eliminating fear:
1. Claim your value
You get to decide how you (individually) will determine the value of all human beings. You have two options: You can see human value as something we must earn and something that constantly changes with our appearance, performance and property (and this mindset will always leave you feeling not good enough); or you can choose to believe we all have the same intrinsic worth regardless of our appearance, performance, relationship history, how many times we have been dumped, or married, how many children we have, or the amount of money we have in the bank.
And you can choose to believe we all have the same value, all the time and it cannot change ever (If you choose this belief your fear of failure will start to shrink).
The world has adopted the first option, though, and teaches us to measure our worth by our successes, our finances and our looks. However, you don’t have to adopt that system if you don’t want to. You can choose to believe we all have the same intrinsic worth as every other human being on the planet all the time, even on a bad hair day or the day you get dumped.
This belief helps us drop the comparison to the others game, and really lean into a sense of confidence and value. This mindset means our confidence does not take a hit every time we are stood up, make a mistake, or compare ourselves to the other guys and girls that our new partner has dated.
If you choose this belief for yourself, you will find your confidence grows and you will have less fear around your decisions. To live without guilt and regret, you must be able to stand firm and secure in your decisions and know you always did the best you could with what you knew at the time, and no decision affected your value.
2. Be open to seeing life as a classroom
Another core subconscious belief you may have gained along the way is the idea that life is a test (which you must pass or fail). This belief is tied to the idea that your value is in question and can change. You, again, could consciously choose a different mindset if you wanted to, that life is a classroom and the purpose of you being on the planet is growth and learning, but your value isn’t tied to any of it.
When you are open to seeing life as a journey towards growth and wisdom, you will feel the universe is working for you, not against you. You could choose to believe that every situation in your life is providing a perfect opportunity for greater growth. This means you cannot make a bad choice, because you can only, as Jason Mraz says, “win some or learn some”, and either way it’s a win in the long run. This mindset makes you feel safer in the world and braver. Challenge yourself this week to look for growth opportunities in every choice, instead of fear.
3. Trust the Journey
If you choose to see life as a classroom, it means that everything in the universe (and in your life) has purpose and meaning, and is there to serve you in some way. When we look up the stars, we see amazing order there and be don't believe we live in a world with random chaos running the show. We believe the universe is a wise teacher who knows what it's doing (We can’t prove this is true, but no one can prove it’s untrue — so we believe it is a mindset choice). This is a mindset choice you get to make every day. Will you trust the universe or fear everything?
If you choose to trust the universe, it might change the way you are looking at this possible relationship. You were attracted to this person for one reason, because there is something this relationship can teach you. What you cannot know is if it’s meant to be a short lesson or a lifelong one. But you are meant to be connected to this person for some reason.
This applies to every situation in your life, too. When you choose this level of trust in the universe, you can take more risks and embrace the journey that comes your way, and believe that no matter what happens it’s going to make you better in some way and for a greater purpose.
With hindsight, we believe you will see how all the dots were linked and why it all happened as it did, but for now, you get to embrace the uncertainty and trust the universe knows what it’s doing and there is something bigger in play. When you trust the journey you can also trust your gut to guide you to wherever you need to be.
If you will start consciously choosing to trust, your value is the same no matter what you choose, and trust the universe will only provide the perfect lessons you need (even if they are hard ones) you will feel more confident in yourself and with your level of risk in your relationships and other areas of your life.
Since learning these principles and putting them into practice in our lives, we have found huge leaps forward in progress. Choosing to trust in your value and your journey make us live bigger and it has always paid off bigger too.
Remember, life is not about having any guarantees; it is about taking the risks you feel nudged to take (which feel wise, even though they are out of your comfort zone) so you can grow, learn, progress and really claim an amazing life. Often it is in these times of growth and risk that you reap the greatest rewards.
Get in trust and then see what your gut is saying.
You can do this!
My spouse is willing to be intimate with me, but she isn’t into it. She goes through the motions because she wants to make me happy, but it feels like another chore she just has to do. I try to make it enjoyable for her, but she still doesn’t seem to want it for herself. I’m glad she is willing but I really want connection and to feel wanted, not just taken care of. Does that make sense? Is there anything I can do to change this?
We believe what you are experiencing is pretty common, because a really connected, passionate, intimate relationship takes a lot of time and work to create, and many couples dealing with the stresses of children and work find there isn’t much time or energy left for improving the quality of their connection.
Intimacy is also a complicated endeavor. There are many physical, psychological, and emotional factors in play. It’s a touchy subject and can bring up a great deal of shame, embarrassment, discomfort, guilt and disappointment. Some couples are also dealing with past abuse, which makes the subject painful and even traumatic. We aren’t able nor qualified to touch on all of those issues, so we highly recommend seeking out some professional help if your situation involves those. But for those who just want to increase the connection with their spouse, we do have some suggestions.
Before we give you our suggestions, remember it takes two for this kind of tango to work. Both partners must be committed to making the relationship rich, close, connected and loving. You don’t have to be good at it, but you must be committed to doing some work on yourself.
If you are the only one who cares about creating this kind of connection, you have a bigger problem that must be dealt with first. We still recommend you work on the four things below, because sometimes a big shift in your approach can shift your partner somewhat. But if your partner is unwilling to discuss, work on, or seek professional help to improve your relationship, you may have a difficult time solving the problem.
In order to create intimacy that is connected, passionate, fulfilling and truly enjoyable for both parties, there are a few factors that must be present. Here are some things you can work on to make your relationship better and more connected:
This is more than just believing your partner won’t cheat. We are talking about a state where your partner feels truly safe both physically and emotionally. You trust they won’t intentionally hurt you or shame you, and you know they will make your needs as important as their own. This is a big deal because you and your spouse both battle a fear of failure — that you aren’t good enough — every day.
Your partner may be afraid of being judged, criticized, or found wanting or disappointing you. Because of this, they may feel at risk and unsafe a lot of the time and they may even see you as a threat (if you trigger their fear of failure more than you cure it).
If you are someone who points out mistakes, flaws, faults, or issues in your partner and even complains they aren’t affectionate or loving enough, then your partner might not feel safe with you. If they don’t feel safe with you, true connection can’t happen. A safe feeling can only happen when a person feels accepted, appreciated, admired and wanted for who they are right now. They need to know they don’t have to be perfect for you to feel this way either. They need to know they are good enough, even though they make mistakes.
If you are good at making your partner feel safe, there is probably a good amount of trust in the relationship. If you have had a pattern of being disappointed, frustrated or angry towards each other, you may have some work to do to build up your level of trust.
Be honest with yourself about how often you make negative comments versus positive ones to your partner. Does your spouse know you wouldn’t put them down, make fun, or embarrass them in front of other people? Do they feel unconditionally accepted and appreciated? Or are they constantly afraid of disappointing you? Are you quick to forgive or do you keep bringing up past wrongs (they can do nothing to fix)?
We believe trust is the most important factor if you want to upgrade the quality of your intimacy. In order for someone to feel comfortable being extremely vulnerable — something that intimacy requires — they must trust you.
Vulnerability is about letting your guard down, putting yourself out there, and truly letting someone see you and know you — your faults and all. A good intimate relationship requires a serious level of vulnerability on both sides. This is a place outside your comfort zone for most people, but you must get brave enough to go here if you want to have real connected intimacy.
You need to ask yourself these questions: “Am I creating a place in this relationship where my partner feels safe to be vulnerable and take risks with me? Does he/she know I’m loyal and wouldn’t betray them, laugh at them, or even worse, criticize or judge them? Do they know I won't hurt them intentionally?”
You also want to ask yourself if you are willing to get vulnerable, take risks, admit your faults and flaws, apologize for mistakes and get out of your ego and into your authentic, vulnerable, heart space? If you feel unsafe to be vulnerable because of body image issues, a lack of comfort around your sexuality, or deep insecurity, these are areas where you must do some work.
If your partner is the one with fears holding them back, you might want to offer to pay for some coaching or counseling to help them overcome these fears. Until the underlying fear issues are dealt with, they will always hold back from being vulnerable and it will be hard to have real connection in intimacy.
3. Comfort level with sexuality
The truth is some people, who grew up in homes where righteousness was in the forefront, may have not learned to be comfortable with their sexuality. We know people who were taught to see physical intimacy as dirty or bad, and they really struggle to feel comfortable with intimacy now. This is not something you can change overnight. First, it’s going to take some work and some willingness and desire to change it.
If you know this is an issue for you or your spouse, we recommend talking to a professional, who can help you create a path towards a different mindset around being intimate.
If your spouse doesn’t care that he or she isn’t comfortable with sexuality, so they aren’t even willing or interested in working on it, you might want to explore what scares them about getting help or changing their mindset. They may have fear of failure around even trying, because they are afraid they still won’t be good at it. They may have fear around how much you might expect from them if they open that door at all. They may be scared of the unknown and staying with the known feels safer.
Until you deal with underlying fear issues and also explore physiological reasons for low libido, you won’t get far on changing the mindset. Make sure you talk to your spouse with a lot of compassion, and validate, honor and respect their right to feel and think the way they do. Don’t make them feel broken, dumb or bad because they haven’t had life experiences that make them feel comfortable yet. Stay out of your fear of loss around not getting the married relationship you wanted — that is all about you and won’t help them feel safer.
You must become the cure to your partner’s fear of failure if you want them to feel connected to you; you must not be the cause of more fear of failure. This means giving them lots of validation and reassurance they are amazing and loved, and not making them feel broken.
4. Desire to both give and receive
Intimacy is connected, passionate and authentically fulfilling when both partners can equally give and receive. But many of us have a subconscious tendency to do one or the other better. Some of us are more natural takers or receivers and we love being given to, pampered, and treated like a queen or king. Others are more natural givers and servers, and we feel safer when we are giving and taking care of everyone around us.
If you are a natural giver, you might not be a very good receiver. You might even be a little co-dependent and think your value comes from giving and if you aren’t giving you may feel selfish. If this sounds like you, you need to learn how to receive, especially if you want to have amazing intimacy.
You might need to start treating yourself to a massage, let others watch your kids so you can relax and do something fun without feeling guilty around it. If this sounds almost impossible to you, we highly recommend you get some help changing how you see your own value and worthiness. There are probably many areas of your life where your over-giving is creating problems.
If you are an over-receiver (taker) you might need to do some work on setting your needs aside and really give to your partner. You may need to ask more questions, read some books, or get some help on what your partner needs and wants from you.
This is a complicated question and the answer will be different for every couple, but hopefully this gives you some ideas on where to start.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. Nicole Cunningham is a master coach and sought after speaker.
My wife and I can’t seem to get along. No matter how hard I try to please her, she says I am selfish with my choices. I am unaware of how my behavior is selfish and have taken great offense to being called this by her again and again. We have been married eight years and I am afraid this may be something we can’t come back from I’m feeling very resentful. Frankly, I think that she is the selfish one, only concerned with herself. Can you give us any advice?
It is hard to feel safe and have good connection in a relationship if you feel your partner is only concerned with their own needs and is not showing up for you. Most of us tend to pull back and focus on ourselves when we feel this too, which means we can become selfish. This is a recipe for disaster in a marriage, because if everyone is focused on what they aren’t getting — no one is giving anything.
You must accurately understand what causes selfishness though if you want to fix it. We believe the real cause of selfishness is fear of loss, and we all battle fear of loss to some degree every day. Fear of loss is basically suffering over feeling mistreated, taken from, ripped off, walked on, or not getting what you were hoping to get.
Every time your spouse does anything that makes you feel your needs aren’t being met, you may find yourself in a fear of loss, scarcity, hard-done-by state. The second you feel you aren’t getting what you expected, you can be in fear of loss and this drives you to subconsciously focus on protecting yourself, controlling things and getting your own needs met. Fear of losing out creates selfishness.
The question you must ask yourself is how much of the time are you thinking about what you aren’t getting and how often are you focused on meeting your spouse’s needs and giving to them? (The right answer is not what you might think.) Being totally focused on the other person isn't healthy either. It's co-dependent and this creates problems in relationships too. The right answer is to have a good equal balance between taking care of yourself and showing up for your spouse.
Good relationships are created when both partners are working on their own fears of failure and loss, feel secure and good about themselves and know how to ask for what they want and need (so they are responsible for their needs and don’t make it their partner's job to keep them happy.)
It is your job (not your partner's) to make sure your needs are being met and your bucket is kept full. If you are running on empty and are desperate for validation and reassurance, you are good enough, loved and wanted, you are probably not good at asking for what you need and doing self-care. This is the first thing we recommend you both work on. If you make sure your bucket is full, you will always have the energy to give to your family.
But, you could have an unhealthy partner, who despite any amount of self-care, boundaries and speaking up, isn’t interested in showing up for you. If you really feel your spouse doesn’t care and is only in this for themselves, we highly recommend you seek out a coach or counselor, who can help you both work on the relationship. If your spouse is not willing to get professional help, you may have a tough decision to make about what’s right for you moving forward.
Having said that, most of the time selfishness can be fixed if you both recognize your fears of failure and loss, and learn how to get out of them. We believe many of us withdraw when we are triggered by the fear of failure in a relationship, as we feel it’s safer to be alone and protect ourselves, especially if we receive criticism or feedback that is negative.
Your fear of failure is probably getting triggered by your wife’s feedback that you are selfish and this might be making you pull back and even become selfish because you are now focused on protecting yourself. When one spouse reacts in fear (which is selfish) it usually triggers the other person's fears and brings out selfishness in them too.
It sounds like your wife may be suffering with fear of loss, as she feels life is unfair and she is not getting the happy marriage she believed she would have. The fear of loss is triggered any time you feel taken from or your expectations are not met. Fear of loss may also be showing up in you, as you think about the impact of your wife’s criticism and the fact you also don’t have the marriage you wanted.
Instead of staying triggered in these fears you must adjust your mindset about your value, knowing it cannot be diminished no matter what your spouse thinks or says about you, and learn to see this situation as a learning opportunity.
In what ways could your wife’s feedback and comment about selfish behavior be your perfect learning opportunity right now? Would you be open to thinking about how you could use this issue to strengthen your marriage and see her feedback as just her way of trying to ask for the love she needs?
Actually, there is a powerful truth here you must understand -- all bad behavior is really a request for love. Most of the time this person who is attacking you is really subconsciously begging for validation and reassurance to quiet their fears. It is their fears of failure and loss that are driving the attacks. When you see their behavior accurately, you can handle it in a way that will create connection, not conflict.
Many of us are ill equipped with how to see behavior accurately, communicate, and ask for what we need in our marriage in a healthy way. Instead, we create hidden expectations that our spouse is supposed to fulfill, yet we don’t communicate them well, so they aren’t met, and we end up disappointed and even angry at our spouse. Where does the fault really lie for this? We believe it takes two scared people to create this dynamic, so you both have some work to do.
When expectations aren’t met, resentment begins and the label of "selfish" comes in. Instead of accepting this as a fact in your marriage, here are some things you can do:
1. Make time and space for some loving conversations and ask your partner how you could show up better for them, and let them ask you for what they need. ‘Honey, in what way can I support you right now and make you feel more loved?’ Ask your spouse this weekly.
2. Make a rule that neither of you will bring up past bad behavior, but focus only on the good behavior you want and need moving forward.
3. Pick one thing to work on doing to love your spouse better this week.
4. When you feel the triggers of self-pity, criticism or fear show up, remember your value can’t change and is the same no matter what and this is just this week’s lesson the universe has provided to give you a chance to practice being more wise and loving. We are on this planet to grow and learn. We believe your spouse can help you grow by pushing your fear buttons and bringing out your worst behavior so you can work on it, but these experiences are not a curse, they are an opportunity to become more mature, wise, strong and loving.
You can do this.
There is a free worksheet to guide you through having mutually validation conversations with your spouse on our website, and the Choosing Clarity workbook would also really help.
My sons are very close in age: 15 and 17 years old. They seem to have this constant need for competition and they put each other down all the time. As their mom, it breaks my heart that they need to compete like this and that they can’t see the goodness I see in each of them. How do I stop the bickering and the constant competition and make sure my boys leave for college with healthy self-esteem?
Thank you for asking this important question. So many parents ask us this same thing — why is there so much competition between kids?
Realistically this is not a teen or child issue. This is a global issue we see in people everywhere. We see it within families, at work and even between neighbors.
Recently over the Fourth of July weekend, all our street was camped out on deck chairs on driveways lighting fireworks. It was beautiful; there were spectacular sights in every direction. But I overheard our immediate neighbor say out loud to his son, "Go to the truck and get the extra box, we must beat the Johnsons," who live on the other side of the street a few doors up. The question is, what is driving our need for this competition, even as mature adults?
Deep down every one of us, including your boys, is struggling with worthiness. The question they (and we) ask ourselves every day is, are we enough? Do I look good in this? Do my shoes match my earrings? Am I good enough to make the team? Will my score be enough on the test?
We all question every day whether we are enough, what value we have, and how we compare to others. This fear appears both consciously and subconsciously for our children. Every day they mix with other kids who are better, smarter, more capable and more talented than them, and this even happens at home. This is a reality in life, not just childhood, so we must help them build an "emotional resiliency muscle" — this is one of our greatest jobs as parents.
An emotional resiliency muscle is the aspect of yourself that is secure in your personal worth and value, that doesn’t have a need to compare yourself to others and feels secure in the knowingness that your life has purpose and meaning in every circumstance. We want to help you achieve this for yourself and teach it to your children.
Here are the steps to building an emotional resiliency muscle:
1. Remind yourself and your family that we all have the same value all the time and it never changes.
There is nothing your children can do to achieve or earn more value nor lose it. Your neighbor doesn’t lose value when he irritates you, and no one you know is better than you either. Human value is unchangeable and every person is a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul that has infinite worth and value.
Therefore, when your child comes home with a 4.0 GPA you should celebrate their efforts, but remind them they still have the exact same value as their sister who only received a C on her math test, who tried just as hard and did her best.
When we truly show our children we celebrate their efforts, not only their achievements, they understand their value isn’t tied to appearance, performance or property, and they will feel more secure in themselves. For this to really work and improve their self-esteem, it has to be something you talk about daily — that no matter what you do you still have the same intrinsic worth as everyone else. You may not get the rewards that come to those who work harder, which is an important lesson, but your value as a human soul doesn’t change.
2. Teach your children to celebrate their wins and their losses.
This may sound counterintuitive, but when we place the same value on wins and losses and see them both as important parts of our development and growth, we teach emotional resiliency. We do this by highlighting the fluctuations of life and role modeling for them that every circumstance and situation, both the good and the bad, are here to serve us and help us grow. We can show children by example that they can feel safe in every circumstance and we can and do bounce back from failures.
It is important for your children to watch you show this kind of emotional resiliency with life’s ups and downs instead of panicking or becoming despondent. To achieve this, you may need to adjust your perspective to see life as your perfect classroom instead of a test that determines your worth. When you see life as a test, you feel enormous pressure to succeed and compete against life and others. You view it as a mountain that must be conquered, instead of a process of enjoyment where you will grow and be strengthened.
With your current level of emotional resiliency, you can show your kids a realistic picture of life, learning and growth or you can paint a picture of fear about the future and life itself. When we role model strength, wisdom and accuracy about the lessons of life for our children, showing them every moment of life enables us to grow and is here to shape us in some way, we are teaching them to see the universe as for them, not against them.
3. Detach from perfectionism.
Many of us can live lives attached to unrealistic expectations for ourselves, others and our lives in general. Idealism and perfectionism are one and the same, a toxic monster that can make us feel like we are failing constantly. How many times do you find yourself thinking, “If I just earned more money I would be happier,” “If I could just lose this baby weight I would feel better about myself” and “If my children were more obedient we would not be having these problems.”
Emotional resiliency and the happiness that comes from it require us to have correct expectations and intentions for ourselves and our lives. Do you set yourself up to succeed through setting these realistic parameters in which to measure your worth and success or are your children watching you crash and burn constantly because you are engaged in a game of perfectionism? You must show emotional resiliency and set expectations that are practical, logical and pragmatic so you can feel good about your efforts and model this for your kids. If this is hard for you, we recommend you find a coach or counselor to help you let go of perfectionism.
4. Teach your children to be compassionate people.
When we and/or our children put others down to make ourselves feel better, we are not being compassionate people. We must know our intrinsic value without the need to position ourselves as superior or above others to feel good. What you are describing with your sons insulting each other is just this projection of superiority our egos use to cover our insecurities and fear. This is very common for children, teenagers and adults.
Be mindful of your own behavior so you can catch yourself putting another person down, even about something small such as their cooking, housekeeping or ability to drive. It’s hard but important for us to notice our behavior when we do this. Most of this behavior is done subconsciously as our mind and ego play these tricks to make us less threatened in the world. Instead of trying to feel good by placing ourselves above others, we must celebrate our uniqueness and know no matter what others do around us, they and we have unchangeable and infinite value.
Obviously, the most important thing you can do for your kids is to work on yourself and make sure you are modeling confidence, compassion and resiliency yourself.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the coaches behind Claritypointcoaching.com. You can get free resources on parenting and raising confident kids at http://www.claritypointcoaching.com/worksheetsdownloads
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice Coach Kim shares questions you can ask yourself to see if you might be the problem in your relationship.
I loved your article on toxic people, but I do have a follow-up question. Toxic people believe they are the ones surrounded by toxic people and that they themselves are not the toxic one. Is there a test or a question we can ask ourselves to determine who is actually the toxic one?
You are absolutely right, many toxic (difficult) people cannot see their part in the "people problems" around them. They are often overly focused on the faults and flaws in other people so they won’t have to look at their own. They usually suffer from a huge fear of failure, which means they can’t handle seeing their bad behavior — it would hurt too much if they did. Instead, they practice psychological projection.
Projection is a subconscious defense mechanism to protect us from pain, and we all do it to some degree. There are three types of projection we want you to understand:
Or a wife who is really bothered when her husband texts while driving, but she does the same thing. She knows she shouldn’t do it and feels guilty about it, though, so it bothers her a great deal when he does it.
We all have a subconscious tendency to project our bad behavior, thoughts and feelings onto others (missing our own issues completely). So how can we ever be sure we aren’t the difficult person? How can we become aware of our real behavior?
First, you might want to ask for candid feedback from the people who know you best. This takes courage, though, because your fear of failure will be triggered by their answers. If you remember you have the same value as everyone else and that can’t change no matter what you do, it is easier to handle though. You may also have to reassure the person you ask and convince them you are really open and can handle the truth because you want to learn and improve. If you really want to be a better person, you may want to ask the people closest to you to share one thing you could do to improve and show up for them better and do this on a regular basis.
If the thought of doing that scares you to death, you may want to work with a coach or counselor to build up your self-esteem first. They may also be a safer place to get feedback from because you don’t have a close relationship (like you do with friends or family).
An objective third-party person can often tell you things a family member or friend would be too scared to say. If you are resistant to both the idea of asking for feedback and working with a coach or counselor because both scare you, you definitely need to get some professional help to change your beliefs around your value and what it means to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of maturity and strength.
We also believe that no one is broken, bad, wrong or worse than anyone else. We are all just totally different and in a unique classroom journey, which no other person can really understand, and we have the exact same intrinsic value. We all have strength and weaknesses, good behavior and bad behavior, and being vulnerable enough to see yours and ask for help to become better means you are accurate, strong, out of your ego and humble enough to be teachable and ready to grow.
Here are some questions you might also ask yourself to determine if you are the problem or a toxic person:
Don’t have any shame around this. Just own that you may need some life skills you haven’t had the opportunity to learn thus far in your life. It does not make you less valuable than anyone else; it just means it’s time to upgrade your people, healthy thinking and life skills.
It’s time to find a professional you feel safe with to help you change the underlying fears that drive your dramatic, selfish, protective or toxic behavior. You are not a bad person, though. You are just a scared, insecure, worried person, who needs to learn another way to process life and what happens to you.
You can do this, and it’s easier than you think.
To my reader who asked this question: Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that the toxic people in your life would even read this article nor answer the questions honestly. They would feel too vulnerable and their ego would really resist going there. Again, this is just their fears at work. You would have to really reassure them of their value to you and your belief in them to make them feel safe enough to be open to looking in this mirror.
Kimberly Giles is a popular author, speaker and coach. There is a worksheet on her website to help you see if you are the problem in your relationship http://www.claritypointcoaching.com/worksheetsdownloads
SALT LAKE CITY —In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares some tips for surviving your dealings with toxic, difficult people.
Why are ex-spouses so mean and vindictive? I've been divorced almost seven years and my ex still never misses a chance to tell the kids what a loser I am. It can be petty things like,"Your dad doesn't know how to make healthy meals" and "You'll get fat if you stay with him" or "Your dad no longer believes in (our church) and is not capable of loving you like I do because real love comes from Jesus." How do I even address this type of nonsense? I can cook, by the way, let's be clear on that. How do you deal with this kind of person?
You asked a bunch of questions here, so let me address each one, and for my readers, these answers can apply to any toxic person in your life, not just an ex-spouse.
First, you asked, “Why are ex-spouses so mean and vindictive?”
Most of them are committed to a story that casts you as the bad one, and they need to put you down constantly to distract their focus from their own fears of inadequacy and loss. Most hurtful people are hurt themselves and they focus on judging and criticizing you because dealing with their own issues would be too painful. They usually have a huge fear of not being good enough (or being inadequate, broken or messed up in some way). We all have it to some degree and it drives a lot of our bad behavior too.
Having a marriage fail usually triggers the fear of failure in a big way, so most people after divorce (consciously or subconsciously) create a story that casts the other spouse as the problem. They can be very attached to this story because their self-worth is literally dependent on it. They may even need to feed the story and make it bigger by adding new faults and flaws all the time. Adding to this story may even become their safe place and they may spend a great deal of time here.
Remember, they do this to avoid the deep pain that comes with recognizing they might have issues and problems too. The more fear of failure they have, the more committed they may be in blaming you and making sure everyone knows you were/are the problem.
We call this behavior the “Shame and Blame Game” and we all play it to some extent. You might notice it when you forget to do something you promised to do, and instead of owning the mistake, you go off about the stupid people at work that messed your day up. When any shame experience hits you, you will subconsciously jump to the nearest plausible person to blame.
(If you watch for this behavior you will see it in yourself and others all the time. It’s a common tendency of human nature.)
You will also see people (or you might be someone) who is quite judgmental of others and find yourself involved in gossip, criticism and backbiting now and then. We do this because, again, it subconsciously and temporarily distracts us from our own fears of inadequacy. We might also complain about the company, the schools, the government, the church, the neighbors or anyone we can see bad in, because this subconsciously makes us feel like the good guy, in light of how bad all these other people are. This is just a trick our egos play to feel better.
Really toxic people (I’m talking about those that are almost impossible to have a productive, respectful relationship with) are usually deeply afraid they aren’t good enough and are afraid of being mistreated or taken from. They may hide these fears behind a great deal of ego and act very arrogant, but underneath it, they are a very scared person. Seeing them as scared, and not just offensive, will help you to have more compassion and less anger around them.
We consider these types of people toxic because their fears keep them focused, day and night, on getting, doing, saying or creating whatever they need to quiet those fears. In this state, they are very selfish and are mostly incapable of showing up for anyone else. They are so busy guarding, protecting and promoting themselves, they have nothing left to put into relating with the rest of us.
I tell you this, not so you can stand in judgment of them, but so you can have some accuracy and compassion for what’s behind their bad behavior. Having said that, it does not mean you have to continue to deal with them. Your best bet is usually to love them from afar. It is perfectly reasonable to have firm boundaries and stay away from them as much as possible.
It sounds like your ex is one of these fear-driven, scared people, who sink to the level of tearing others down, so they can feel better. It sounds like she has launched a campaign to convince your children she is the good guy and you are the bad guy. That is really sad because, in the end, it is your kids who will be hurt by this behavior. Your ex may also feel threatened by you and be afraid the kids will end up taking your side or liking you better, and this drives even more bad behavior.
Your next question was, “How do I address this type of nonsense? How do you deal with this kind of person?”
Here are some tips for dealing with toxic people:
1. Take the high road. Don’t sink to her level and say negative things about her to the kids.
The kids will figure out on their own the truth about who both their parents are. You show them every day with your behavior. If you continue to be mature, kind, respectful, loving and calm, your kids will adore and respect you no matter what your ex may tell them. If they believe her lies now, be patient because the truth rises to the surface on its own. If they ask you directly about things she says, answer honestly, but be careful not to sink to her level.
2. Remember your value is the same no matter what she says about you.
She cannot diminish you! She can’t change the truth about who you are. Hold onto that and don’t react to her darts. Let them all bounce off and don’t even be offended by them. They can’t hurt you unless you pick them up and stab yourself with them.
3. Choose to see this situation as an interesting classroom that apparently has something to teach you or is meant to grow you.
If you choose to, you can see every experience in your life as something that is here to serve and grow you. If you choose to see life this way, it feels like life is serving you, not trying to crush you. In this place, you will see each experience as a chance to rise and do better or become better.
Take the challenge to rise and be a better version of yourself in spite of (or even through) this experience. I believe difficult people are here to show us the limits of our love and stretch us and help us learn to love (or have compassion) at a higher level. This doesn’t mean you accept abuse from them, but it does mean you handle it with as much class, maturity and kindness as possible— while protecting yourself too.
4. When you have to respond and interact with a toxic person, choose to make yourself bulletproof and undiminishable so that nothing they do or say can anger or upset you.
You are in control of how much another person’s actions affect you. No one can anger or upset you without your participation and willingness to experience that. You are responsible for how upset you choose to be. You may have an unconscious upset reaction to a situation that shows up so fast you didn’t consciously choose it. But as you realize you are upset, you then have the power to choose how miserable and upset you want to stay and for how long.
5. Give yourself a set amount of time (a reasonable amount) to be really angry and upset. Then choose something better.
I usually need 15 minutes to really be mad and upset about what someone said or did, and I make those 15 minutes really count and I allow myself to really suffer in the hurt and anger.
Then, I decide I really don’t want to live in this state because it will hurt me more than the person who upset me. I choose another emotion that I deserve to feel instead. (I sometimes have to take my anger and put it in a closet and lock the door for now. That way I know I can go back in there and dwell in it again if I really need to.) But for now, I will choose something more constructive, like gratitude for what’s right in my life, love for my kids, or kindness toward others.
Do not let other people decide how happy, miserable, peaceful or upset you will be today. Consciously choose for yourself. Choose the emotions inside you in every moment because letting others dictate how you feel is letting them have power over you, which is what they want.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and is a popular speaker. Get her Don't get Upset Ebook here at this link http://www.claritypointcoaching.com/worksheetsdownloads
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and is a
popular life coach, author and speaker. She was named
one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly
on local and national TV and Radio.